Category Archives: Religion

Anything to do with religion, or lack thereof.

The Mohammad Cartoons

Several months ago a Dutch cartoonist drew 12 cartoons depicting Mohammad. In the Islamic tradition any depiction of saints or prophets is considered idolatry, probably as a reaction against the pervasive Christian habit of glorifying all their heros in various forms.  It seems apparent, from both their content as well as the history behind them, that the cartoons were meant to offend the Muslims. Predictably any number of protests have occurred, complete with threats. Needless to say, I have several comments on the issue.

First, the Muslims are free to protest, just as the Danes were free to publish. They are both working pretty hard at either outraging or being outraged, so I’ve got little sympathy for either group. What the Muslims are not free to do is to threaten violence, at least not in Western democratic countries. There are only a handful of really basic Western democratic keystones, and 2 of them are applicable here. (1)We all have a “personal sphere” of privacy that is protected by our rights, and included in that sphere is freedom of belief and expression. In the US, this is covered by the first amendment. (2)Violence is the monopoly of the government. No group other than the government can threaten or carry out violence against anybody else. If anybody else does, it is the government’s duty to enforce its monopoly, by force if necessary.

The Arabs are pretty much the last of the romantics, and romantics too often take offense quickly and react badly. One reason the Arabs have the luxury of being romantics is the oil they sit on combined with our appetite for it. The rest of the world has to work for a living, and it’s tough to stay a romantic in the daily grind.

There’s a long history of depictions of Mohammad, and as far as I can tell, none of them have caused the uproar that the cartoons have. And the cartoons were published several months ago. Why the sudden furor now? My guess is that Muslims, like Christians, need to periodically be reminded that they are being persecuted. And, like the Koran in the commode or “Merry Christmas”, any excuse will do.

February 4, 2006

The Merry Christmas Controversy

I keep hearing about the Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays controversy. It seems that some Good Christians are upset that some people aren’t recognizing the true nature of Christmas. As an example, some retailers are wishing their customers “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”, and there are moves to either hold boycotts or protests. The most visible of the Good Christians seem to be on Fox Network, including Bill O’Reilly.

From my observations, I’d have to guess that most people use one phrase or the other without a lot of thought, and I’d also have to guess that most recipients of these good wishes aren’t particularly offended one way or the other. I’ve witnessed people saying both of these for many years, and I’m a little curious why, all of a sudden in 2005, this has become controversial. Two thoughts come immediately to mind. The first one is that ratings were falling and a new controversy was needed to keep them up. The second one is that poll numbers were falling and a new assault on Christianity was needed to keep them up. Most likely, some combination of these two.

The general goal of this type of manufactured controversy, aside from the money/power angles, is to convince the Christian majority that they are somehow under attack from the libruls, the atheists, the communists and the other usual suspects. All of whom added up constitute maybe 10% of the population, whom as far as I can tell have no political or cultural influence at all. Still, it seems to be working. In a recent Newsweek they listed a poll result where 64% of Americans think religion is under attack in the U.S. O’Reilly and Rove must be laughing all the way to the bank.

This is not the first of these controversies. Terri Schiavo, prayer in school, teaching evolution, ten commandments rocks, Christmas displays and so on are all part of an effort to keep Christians convinced that someone is attacking them. Christians, like most people, want to feel righteous, and being persecuted is a sure sign that you are righteous while everyone else is evil. It worked 2000 years ago for Christ, it worked last year for “The Passion” and it will work as long as humans are humans. That it continues to work so easily, in the face of all evidence and common sense, is discouraging.

Never mind that Christmas has never had much to do with the birth of Christ. It started as a celebration of the returning of the sun and was co-opted by the early Christians. More recently, it has been again co-opted by the new religion of consumerism. Turn-about seems only fair. And certainly consumerism is a far greater threat to the idea of Christmas than any attack from the non-believers. After all, even among observant Christians how much money is spent on presents compared with what is donated to the hungry? How much time is spent shopping compared with volunteering at a soup kitchen?

December 26, 2005

Terrorist Origins

The local paper today had columns from Gwynne Dyer and Charles Krauthammer about the ongoing Muslim terrorists and their origins. It was interesting to see just how differently the two columnists use the same facts (more or less) to arrive at two very different conclusions. I’d have to guess the newspaper editors were cognizant of this.

The major disagreement was whether our actions, like invading Iraq, have led to the bombings, as opposed to a longer-term Islamist malignancy. The money quotes follow, first from Dyer.

Every major terrorist attack by Islamists since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, has targeted the citizens of countries that sent troops to Iraq: Americans, not Canadians; British, not French; Spanish, not Germans; Australians, not New Zealanders.

He goes on to mention that originally most of the attackers were Arabs (perhaps due in part to the long-standing actions of the West in the Middle East) but since Iraq other Muslims are taking up the attack. His final sentence is Actions do have consequences.

Now, from Krauthammer.

The fact that native-born Muslim Europeans are committing terror acts within their own countries shows that this Islanist malignancy long predates Iraq, long predates Afghanistan and long predates 9/11.

Now I’ve tried every line of logic I can think of to justify this sentence, and I can’t find it. It just doesn’t make any sense. Would it be unthinkable for people, depending on their experiences, to change from peace-loving to terrorists?

So it’s pretty clear I come down on Dyer’s side. But it is a disturbing side to come down upon. Is it true that our invasion of Iraq has increased our potential adversaries, from the Arabs (who comprise 25% of Muslims) to all Muslims? Nice work, George! Unfortunately, I’m guessing that Dyer is correct, and that we’ve got a long hard road to go down.

July 15, 2005

A Christian Nation?

A popular theme running through conservative Christian circles these days is that the U.S. is a Christian Nation, and that was the intention of the founding fathers. Never mind that the historical record leans quite strongly against this theme. The opening lines of the U.S. Constitution should be enough to put the notion of a Christian Nation to bed. Here they are.

“We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…”

No mention of God, is there? The authority for our Constitution comes from the people, not from God. As far as I know, this was the first Constitution that did not mention God anywhere in it, and even went to great lengths to build a wall between religion and government. Probably had something to do with the French experience, which was still underway at the time. Modern Christians, never at a loss for spin, say Christianity was so basic to the founding fathers that they saw no need to put God into the Constitution. Again the historical record says otherwise. A fair amount of debate was held at that time on the lack of God; the founding fathers were not stupid or blind; they knew exactly what they were and weren’t doing.

Most of the individual states already had a sanctioned church. Massachusetts, now regarded as a den of iniquity, perhaps had the strongest church-state relationship, left over from the Puritans. All of these relationships and the many of the laws that resulted were swept away by the new Constitution. This was not done lightly, or without rancor.

Predictions were made at the time that the U.S. would have God’s reckoning to deal with, and 70 years later (threescore and ten, right?) many believers thought the Civil War was that reckoning. There was a delegation to Lincoln in February 1864 that wanted him to support an amendment that would fix this oversight. It would replace the above with these lines.

“Recognizing Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, and acknowledging the Lord Jesus Christ as the Governor among the nations, His revealed will as the supreme law of the land, in order to constitute a Christian government…”

Needless to say, it never went anywhere. Please, all you believers reading this, please tell me you see the danger to everyone who happens to not be in power with that type of language. You only have to look to the theocracies in the middle east to see what can happen. And please don’t hand me the line that Christians are somehow more tolerant than Muslims. History tells quite a different story.

But if the founding fathers really wanted a Christian Nation, don’t you think they would have written something like the above, instead of what they actually did? Wouldn’t they have had religious tests for office holders, when instead they explicitly banned them?

Another detail that leans against the Christians’ attempts to rewrite history – the Post Office. Yes, you heard that correctly. The founders were so eager to show that the government was separate from religions that mail service ran 7 days a week. No Sunday holiday! As you can imagine, there were lots of complaints about this. Eventually Sunday service did go away, perhaps more for economic reasons than religious ones.

These little details are contained in the book Freethinkers – a History of American Secularists, written by Susan Jacoby. As I continue to read the book, I’ll include other tidbits.

July 11, 2005

Walter Cronkite

Why in the world would Walter Cronkite be a topic here? After all, he retired several decades ago, handing his anchorship of CBS over to Dan Rather, who has also recently retired. I saw him a couple of years ago; he’s not moving around too quickly any more; but he still has his mental facilities. His name was on a fund-raising letter from the Interfaith Alliance, a group whose main interest seems to be defeating a bill to allow churches to become more politically active while maintaining their tax-exempt status. A letter from him was part of the packet. I thought that letter was quite well-written, and I’ll reproduce parts of it here, leaving out all the begging for money parts. My younger readers might keep in mind that Cronkite was so trusted by middle America that when he finally came out against the Vietnam war, it became a lost cause.

When I anchored the evening news, I kept my opinions to myself. But now, more than ever, I feel I must speak out.

That’s because I am deeply disturbed by the dangerous and growing influence of people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell on our nation’s political leaders.

Especially after Robertson and Falwell both shamefully blamed America’s courts and the highest levels of our government for the horrific September 11 attacks on our nation. They said it happened because we “insulted God”. Falwell went on to blame feminists, pro-choice Americans and other groups he despises.

Like you, I understand that freedom of speech is a founding principle of our nation, and I respect people with the courage to speak their minds.

As a concerned person of faith, however, I have watched with increasing alarm as the Christian Coalition and other Religious Right groups manipulate religion to further their intolerant, political agendas.

Over the years, Robertson and Falwell have gained considerable influence on local school boards, in the administration, and in Congress. They have shrewdly twisted the traditional healing role of religion into an intolerant, political platform.

Using religion as a tool to push their personal political beliefs – especially, in a time of national tragedy – not only insults people of faith and good will, it also diminishes the positive healing role religion can and should play in public life.

The Christian Coalition has more than two million members and a growing coffer of funds, helping it influence elections and political candidates.

In response, many members of Congress are forced to cave in to its demands. Even politicians – who privately dislike its tactics or are uncomfortable with its political agenda – have been scared into submission.

June 21, 2005

Suffering

For the devoted Christian, one of the great challenges to one’s faith is the amount of suffering in the world. After all, if God is both omnipotent and all-merciful, then why would He allow so much misery?

There are three basic ways a religion or philosophy can explain away all this suffering. (1) If everything (or mostly everything) is due to chance. (2) If nothing (or mostly nothing) is due to chance, but the universe has no higher meaning or power. (3) If nothing is due to chance, and there is a higher purpose, but that higher purpose cares nothing about suffering, or at least suffering on this earth. The Chinese religions (Tao and Confucian) would pretty much use #1. The Indian religions (Hindu and Buddhist) use #2. As souls are reborn, they are in a higher or lower circumstance depending on how they lived their previous life. But there’s no real purpose behind these rebirths. #3 was used by several polytheistic religions (Greek and Roman) where the gods played their games with humans, as well as Zoroaster, which has two gods, one evil and one good.

So far, so good. But when a religion makes two assumptions: God is all-powerful and all-merciful, trouble arises. You cannot deny that suffering on a massive scale exists. Some of it may be deserved by ones actions, but the great bulk of it is due to the situation one is born into. Either one or the other of the assumptions must be wrong. The western monotheistic religions (Christian, Islamic and Jewish) all have this problem.

It is interesting to look at how twisted the theologians get themselves as they try to explain away this problem. Is the suffering due to the existence of free will? If so, how does free will play into a baby dying miserably in some third-world country? And if free will is such a good thing, why didn’t God create more animals with it? Was man’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden, the original sin, the cause of all this suffering? But why should that be?

Are there other answers to this riddle? I’ve heard a variety of them, and none of them stands up to even the lightest scrutiny. It continues to amaze me how far people will go, what logical leaps they will make, what denials they will maintain, to keep their faith. It is probably too painful for the faithful to admit that God doesn’t exist, and either solution #1 or #2 above is the reality. It must also be too painful to admit that maybe God doesn’t have some of the characteristics they wish he did.

June 18, 2005

On Death

Instead of being at the mercy of wild beasts, earthquakes, landslides, and inundations, modern man is battered by the elemental forces of his own psyche. This is the World Power that vastly exceeds all other powers on earth. The Age of Enlightenment, which stripped nature and human institutions of gods, overlooked the God of Terror who dwells in the human soul. Carl Jung.

Death is the one thing we all share. Perhaps it is the only thing we all share. Even Mothers are not universal. It represents the end of everything known to us, and the start of everything unknown. All life is programmed to survive – we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t – and the certainty that we will at some point not exist is like watching the grim reaper slowly getting closer, cutting people off like so many stalks of wheat. First he cuts down our grandparents. But we’re still safe as long as our parents are still alive, right? Then the reaper takes them, and there is no longer a barrier between him and us.

Western religions, especially, have seized on the unknown and the fear. In place of a serious contemplation of what death is, they pander to our fears and give us the best of what we want. They have built a cartoonish heaven that promises us eternal life, spent with our loved ones, in the presence of God. And to increase their power, they try to convince us there’s a hell, where we will suffer the worse of what we fear: eternal pain, fire and brimstone. Of course many faithful take these representations of heaven and hell as allegories, but recent polls of Americans indicate most Christians, at least, take these stories literally.

Like everyone else, I don’t know what happens to us when we die. But at least I don’t pretend that I do. I suspect that when we die, we die. Nothing. Nada. Just like before we were born. As much as I would like to believe in a hereafter, I am not going to throw away my ability to reason and my sense of reality just to give myself some comfort. Does this lack of faith cause me some distress? After all, if the result of my death is nothing, then the result of my life must also be nothing. Have I no greater purpose than my day-to-day pleasures? And if there’s no punishment for sinning, why should I bother living a virtuous life?

I’ve tried to imagine what the experience of death might be like. The closest I’ve come to so far is to try to capture the experience of falling asleep. Of course I suspect your body will be in a fair amount of pain and confusion as the final death approaches. Still, I’ve never been able to actually experience falling asleep. One second your mind is drifting along, then there’s nothing. I’m never consciously aware of the transition. Later on I might dream, but those dreams are quite disconnected from the falling asleep. So do I fear death? Well, the process might not be very much fun, but why fear something we have each experienced thousands of times? Is there any reason to think that the entry to eternal sleep is any different than the entry to nighttime sleep? So there’s nothingness forever? I think so, but since I won’t experience it, why should I be troubled? Is my daily life so wonderful that I’d like to do it forever? Can I even imagine anything that I’d like to do forever? The main thing I’ll miss is not knowing how things come out, how events resolve themselves.

Death, the most dreaded of all evils, is therefore of no concern to us; for while we exist death is not present, and when death is present we no longer exist.Epicurus.

Why do I at least try to live a virtuous life? In the end, I’m convinced it’s the best way to live. Perhaps my conviction is due to my upbringing; or perhaps, as part of the civilizing process, most of us learn there’s a tacit agreement among us that if I respect your rights, you will return the favor. This sense of the golden rule is the foundation of civil societies. Religions would try to convince you that God, not man, makes the laws that makes societies function. Of course, I would disagree. In the end, I live virtuously for the same reason the faithful do – it is in my best interest. The major difference is that I get whatever rewards I have coming while here on earth, and the believers are convinced they’ll get their rewards later, a zillion times over.

If there’s no point to life, why don’t I just kill myself now and get it over with? For better or worse we’re all programmed to survive, in my opinion by the demands of our natural world. Like most of us, I enjoy the mundane day-to-day activities I now take part in. I also feel an obligation to support and care for my family and friends. And in spite of the ultimate meaningless of my life, I might as well stick around to see how things come out as long as I reasonably can. Would the prospect of an empty life ever lead me to kill myself? Almost certainly not as I am fundamentally a happy guy. An empty life wouldn’t be the problem; unceasing pain might be. I have always tried to not judge others who have done so. I can’t possibly know what their lives were like. In the same way, I don’t know might happen in my own life to make me want to end it. In any event, I don’t believe I would then spend an eternity in hell. I just wouldn’t experience all that I might have.

I’ve sometimes wondered what our world would be like if we could live forever. While that prospect seems enticing, I suspect there’d be some unpleasant realities. If you think there’s conflict among men today, can you imagine what the conflict would be like if some men lived and others died? If there is nothing else common among humanity, at least there’s death. And can you imagine doing anything so wonderful that you’d like to do it forever? And how would we control the population? Would we become a bunch of old farts living together into eternity? In the early “Vampire” books Rice spent quite a bit of time trying to have us understand how a vampire would look at the world, and it certainly did have its down sides.

Death is an endless night so awful to contemplate that it can make us love life and value it with such passion that it may be the ultimate cause of all joy and all art. Paul Theroux.

In the same way I’d like to be smarter, richer, taller and so on, I’d like to live longer. But the deal we have is the deal we have. And maybe the secret to happiness is to cherish what you have while you have it, and not worry about what else might have been, nor what else might be.

March 2, 2005

The Center of the Universe

When I was younger I used to conjure up different types of environments, and play around with how they might actually work. As political examples, how would a totally socialist country work, or a totally capitalist, or a totally theocratic. Hollywood often makes movies about exotic fantasy environments and places us into them, and while others may like all the action these movies always seem to have, I find myself evaluating how consistent the fantasy world is with my understanding of people and nature. My wife just hates it when I point out all the flaws.

One of these fantasy worlds was that the world existed just for my benefit. Nothing existed outside of my experience. All the people in New York City? When I wasn’t in NYC, they went away. It was as though I was the only person alive, and someone else created all these people and locations and natural features either to test me, or perhaps to entertain. The movie “Matrix” incorporates some of this fantasy, although in my fantasies I alone was the object of the deception. In a small way, this particular fantasy forces you to examine the nature of your experiences, and to think about what constitutes your own store of knowledge and beliefs.

Part of what I was doing with this fantasy was assigning to myself an importance that was quite above what it really is. Could I have been less enthusiastic about the assignment? Well, sure, but if your building a fantasy world, you might as well go all the way. Going back to movies, it seems that no matter how many others are fighting, the final contest always come down to one man. In the hands of Frodo hung the fate of middle earth. Or Luke Skywalker, the rebellion.

Aside from the self-importance enthusiasm, what is the fundamental difference between this fantasy, and the fantasies of most religions? Sticking to Christians, they believe that God made man in His image, and that His only son died to save them. So not only is Homo Sapiens special and unique in all the universe, but Christians are even more special. Given the number of people claiming to be doing God’s work, I’d bet that the specificity of God’s favor extends right on down, in some cases, to the individual. If that weren’t sufficient, Christians believe God cares about each one of us individually, hears our prayers, individually judges us when we die.

Each of us is, after all, trapped with the same perspective where we remain constant and the universe revolves around us. Its pretty natural to assume our individual world is larger and more important than it really is. Its also a normal inclination to want to believe you are part of something bigger than yourself, that you are special, and as long as you’re building a fantasy, why not make it a good one?

One major difference is that I know my fantasy is such. While many faithful understand that parts of their faith are symbolic, too many others take a religion’s teachings literally.

All the above would seem to represent quite an indictment of religion, especially Christianity, reducing long- and deeply-held beliefs to mere fantasies. However, the universe really is a wondrous place. Although I think it could have arisen without an intelligent guiding hand, I can understand that other people can reasonably think otherwise. I have no problem with people finding God in the making of that world, having faith that there is something beyond what we can observe and taking comfort from that faith. Where I start to get annoyed is when people think they (or their group) are somehow special, and I get more so when they use that specialness to justify their behavior. Or sometimes, their mis-behavior.

March 2, 2005

Our Perception of the World

As part of my endless musings about the universe and our place in it, I’ve come across 3 seemingly unrelated items that end up having some commonality. The items are: (1)The behavior of our dogs; (2) The life being lived by an older mentally-confused relative; and (3) A book I just finished, “Spoken Here”, by Mark Abley, about disappearing languages. I didn’t start out trying to find a common theme in these; it just naturally happened. What might that common theme be? All three of them provide different insights into how each of us perceive the world around us, and how those perceptions may be limited in ways we don’t even have a clue about. In Donald Rumsfeld’s words, we don’t know what we don’t know.

Most pet owners have at times wondered what in the world was going on in their pets’ minds. In the case of our dogs, every now and then they do something that cannot be explained, at least not by human experience. I wonder how dogs sense the world around them. We know they have a much better sense of smell and hearing than we do, and their eyes are in some ways better but mostly worse than ours. But what sort of experiences does a dog have? For example, do they experience colors the same way we do? Is green “cooler” than red, for example? For that matter, do individual humans experience colors in the same way?

A similar line of inquiry can be made about how the older relative perceives the world. She has very little short-term memory left, and is certainly no longer legally competent, but she continues to live day-to-day, seemingly perfectly content. Those of us who are younger and still competent might feel sorry for her. But within her world, she seems fine. She no longer has any knowledge of the world outside of her immediate surroundings, but she doesn’t ask about it either and wouldn’t know how to process the information if it were presented to her. But what fundamentally separates her condition from ours? We all know people in various stages of dementia; an argument could be made that we all suffer in some degree from it. As I get older I know I am no longer to juggle as many ideas as I could when I was younger. Aside from degree, how does my condition differ from hers? But even if I were the most perceptive human being on the planet, would I have a perfect ability to manage all my perceptions? As a species, how capable are we of accurately understanding the world around us?

“Spoken Here” chronicles several minority languages, several of which are certainly doomed to die within a generation. Why should we care? After all, doesn’t a decreasing number of languages lead to easier communication among us? While that may be so, many of these languages contain organizational structures and thought patterns that are quite different from, in my case, English. Someone speaking one of these languages could very well organize and perceive the world differently than we do. Might these alternative perceptions be of any value to us? And what limits does our use of English place on our own perception of the world? As a small example, how many times is there no word that adequately conveys what we are trying to say? As another example, our use and placement of “I” (as in “I am going to town.”) may color how we perceive ourselves among others. Would our perspective change if English was constructed differently (as in “Town going to by one of us”)? There’s a similar problem in the natural world, with the rapid disappearance of potentially useful species.

We all exist in a real world, and there is an objective reality (call it “truth”) to that world. How close do any of us form an internal image of that reality? Is the dog’s better than ours? How much more acute might other images be? In the end, what keeps our sense of reality from deviating too far is death. Our very first imperative is to survive in the natural world we live in. If we don’t do that, all else is moot. If you can’t figure out which foods are poisonous and which are not, you will not pass your defective perceptions onto the next generation. So at some level the “perception delta” is self-correcting. This is just another way of stating the forces that drive evolution. For better or worse, we humans have been so successful at managing our environment that many of us are able to depart from reality for extended periods without suffering for it. As a result, we often don’t properly appreciate the realities of our world. Worse, because our ways have to date always been the most successful, we tend to dismiss other ways too easily. At some point in the future, that dismissal may come back to haunt us.

February 28, 2005

A Theocracy? #1

This is my first paper following the election. As I’ve written previously in these pages, the Bush victory was no surprise. I was more upset by the Ohio Constitutional Amendment #1. It was a measure to outlaw any recognition of gay marriage by any State entity. Unfortunately, it was written so broadly that it might be construed to apply to, for example, older unmarried couples who want to provide financial support for each other. It passed by a large margin, 62% vs. 38%. Two letters follow. The first one was written by Raymond A. Merz, and was published in the Dayton Daily News on November 20, 2004.

Now that the season of inflamed rhetoric, namely the election campaign, has past, it’s time for this retired pastor to express some alarms. It appears that we are drifting away from our democracy toward a theocracy, or a government controlled by the church.

Christians are taught that we have special responsibility for “the least, the last and the lost,” whereas history shows us theocracies justify exploitation for economic gain.

Christians are taught that the peacemakers are blessed, whereas history shows us that theocracies find holy ends to justify any form of brutality.

Christians are taught to love our enemies and not let bitterness take root, whereas history shows us that theocracies classify anyone who differs with them as an enemy and then relegates them to silence and an inferior status.

The alarms are all around us. Our Founding Fathers know the dangers of theocracy from experiences both in Europe and in the colonies. That is why they created this wall of separation that would be friendly to both sides, but controlled by neither side.

The next letter was written by myself and sent, with slightly different wording, to the two Ohio senators, both republicans, both of whom opposed Issue #1. I’ll be interested to see if I get any response, other than the polite one, from either of them.

Dear Senator Voinovich:

First, we congratulate you on your recent re-election. We also wanted to thank you for your opposition to Ohio’s Constitutional Amendment #1. Unfortunately, in spite of your opposition and our “no” votes, it passed handily, with 3,250,000 votes.

We regard the Ohio Constitution as a document that is fundamental to how we operate our government, and to use it to express moral preferences strikes us as a serious abuse. It also sets a precedent for using it so, and who is to say where that very dangerous road will lead?

We noticed that you won your re-election with 3,380,000 votes. We think it is a fair assumption that a large part of your supporters also supported the Amendment. Have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe, you are now holding a tiger by the tail? That in spite of your reasonable opposition to this issue, an increasing number of the conservatives who are mostly your supporters (as well as Mr. Bush’s supporters) are no longer interested in reasonableness? That, among many other congressmen, your support of Mr. Bush’s agenda has so empowered the conservatives that the fundamentalists are now setting the agenda?

We’re not asking for you to change any of your policies, nor to change whom you support. We’re merely suggesting that you pause, step back, and reflect upon where your supporters and your party appear to be taking this country, and ask yourself why so many moderates like ourselves are growing increasingly worried.

I am sure many conservatives and fundamentalists would argue that they are only defending themselves against an activist judiciary. I would ask if any ruling on gay marriage has either (a)forced anyone to do anything against their will, or (b)prevented anyone from doing as they wished?

November 20, 2004